Monday, November 12, 2007

Diversity? Let me tell you about diversity

Often times when I think of suburbs, I think of primarily all white communities. The houses all look the same and reflect what I suppose is upper middle class, or those trying to emulate that status. What I like about Raytown, is that it doesn't hide behind big fancy houses, as I like to call them. Don't get me wrong, there are certain neigbhorhoods right here in this city with them, but for the most part, Raytown consists of smaller homes built mainly from the 1940s to the 1970s. Think Leave it to Beaver or The Brady Bunch. Single family homes with one bathroom for a family of six. Hard to believe, but it's true. These houses have decreased in value over the years as most homes do, and they attract what I think is a wide variety of people coming from a similiar "class" status, the working class. I personally like the working class better than any other class because they provide for a rich diversity of neighbors. And a diverse neighborhood makes an interesting neighborhood. Two houses up, there is an African American family, a little bit further up is a Hispanic family. The kid up the street comes from a single mother home and plays Varsity football at Raytown High. On the corner...well, I'm not really sure what's going on there, but they provide for endless entertainment. My next door neighbor buys old junk cars and fixes them up. I'm waiting for the day when he pulls up in a Volkswagon Beetle, not one of those bubbly new ones, but one of the originals. I will sell my economical Ford Escort and buy it on the spot. Needless to say, there is always something going on, on my street. Monotony is not a noun that readily comes to mind when I get home from work everyday. Sometimes I wonder what in the world these people are doing, but it's great to see so much activity. What's even better, is that everybody is so friendly. I don't hesitate to talk to any of my neighbors and that makes me feel at home and at ease.

Raytown works, as far as diversity goes. Occassionally I substitute teach at the Middle Schools and High Schools, and the way the kids interact with each other is amazing to me. I have a History degree and I recall from a civil rights class, images of the Little Rock students entering Central H.S after the school was desegregated. Then I look at Raytown High School. What a long way we've come. I graduated from High School myself within the last ten years from a very homogeneous "white" High School in Michigan. Most of our parents worked for the same company and all the kids were connected somehow. Our lunchroom was segregated and the students didn't mix well unless they were playing sports. About a month ago, I looked out on the class I was monitoring and saw a mixture of skin colors. Sometimes when you're stuck in a classroom, you are forced to interact with your fellow students, so I decided to make my way to the cafeteria during the lunch hour to see if this was some kind of oddity. I wasn't terribly shocked when I saw mixed groups of students together. Not only did these students work together in the classroom, they socialized together outside the classroom. I got home that afternoon and realized, that I live in this community with those students and that I'm a part of this social eco-system that lives and thrives harmoniously despite our racial backgrounds.
Raytown, for being a small suburb, is doing something right. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, and as far as we still may be from that dream, I see the beginnings of it right here in my town.

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